Recognizing signs of appendicitis
Appendicitis remains a common surgical emergency that as many as 5% of people in the United States will develop in their lives, most often between the ages of 10 and 30. Fortunately, appendicitis can be safely treated if recognized early. Surgeon Jesse Clanton, MD, explained the signs of appendicitis and what to watch out for.
What causes appendicitis?
Appendicitis is when the appendix, a small tube of intestine located at the point where the small bowel turns into the large bowel, becomes blocked. Once blocked, bacteria can get trapped and grow, causing the appendix to become inflamed and painful. If not treated quickly, the appendix may eventually burst or rupture, causing bacteria to spill into the abdomen, leading to a more severe infection.
What are the symptoms of appendicitis?
The most common symptom with appendicitis is abdominal pain. The pain usually starts out vague and crampy around the belly-button area. The pain then becomes more severe and moves down and to the right lower abdomen. Most patients notice that coughing or movement makes the pain worse. A car ride with lots of bumps along the way can be an especially painful experience for someone with acute appendicitis.
Besides pain, many patients will also describe:
- Loss of appetite, even for their favorite foods
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal bloating
What is the treatment for appendicitis?
The most effective treatment for appendicitis is surgery to remove the inflamed appendix. This surgery is usually performed laparoscopically, or in a minimally invasive way, with a camera and several small incisions. Most patients recover very quickly after surgery for early appendicitis. Some even go home the same day of surgery. If treatment is delayed and the appendix has burst, then a longer hospital stay and course of antibiotics is often needed to treat the infection.
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